Lots of things can keep you up at night. Now, women can add refined carbohydrates to that list.
Highly refined carbohydrates include white bread, white rice, pasta, sugar and many breakfast cereals. They’re known to spike blood sugar — and now Columbia University researchers have found that they may be partly to blame for insomnia.
During the study, researchers analyzed food-diary data from more than 50,000 participants in the Women’s Health Initiative. They wanted to know if women who ate more refined carbohydrates had more sleepless nights. They found those who ate more carbs, especially sugar, were at greater risk of insomnia. Those who consumed more fiber, vegetables and whole fruit were less likely to suffer from sleeplessness. The findings were published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
Carbs are a culprit in insomnia because of the chemical reaction they cause in the body. A sudden rise in blood sugar causes the body to release insulin. That, in turn, makes blood sugar drop — which prompts the release of hormones that can interfere with sleep.
While the study was conducted on data from postmenopausal women, researchers believe the results should hold true for the broader population because spikes and troughs in blood sugar are similar in most people.
Next, researchers say clinical trials would help to determine if changes in diet that emphasize whole foods and complex carbohydrates could help to prevent or treat insomnia. Ultimately, researchers hope the findings lead to a simple, affordable fix for insomnia.
So if falling asleep or staying asleep is an issue, consider switching out your carbs for vegetables during the day.